"It's all about that bass!
-- Meghan Trainor
"None of us wanted to be the
bass player. It wasn't the #1 job: we wanted
to be up front. In our minds, it was the
fat guy in the group who nearly always played the
bass, and he stood at the back. None of us
wanted that; we wanted to be up front singing,
-- Paul McCartney
"Mister bass man
You got that
Mister bass man
You set the
Hey mister bass
You're head and
king of rock and roll"
-- Johnny Cymbal
DID YOU KNOW?
Bass players are hard to come by. If you want to
join a band, there is usually more demand for bass players
than for guitarists and drummers. It is a fun
instrument to play, and it's much faster to learn than
keyboard or guitar. If you already know basic guitar,
learning bass is a snap. Even if you don't, it's not
hard to learn. If you are a vocalist, you will be much
more marketable if you can also play an instrument.
Bass is an excellent choice for vocalists because playing
bass is not as complicated as guitar and thus it leaves you
free to focus more of your attention on your singing.
Dr. Irv Nelson has been playing in bands for over 40 years,
and playing bass for about 15 years. I am currently
the bass player in the classic rock band The Fender Benders,
and I also play bass in Relic Acoustic Band.
I have also performed bass with many other artists,
including on numerous occasions with the Utah State
University choirs in concert.
On stage with Carl Hart in The Fender Benders
currently own five bass guitars. My main "axe" is a
Yamaha TRBX304 with Elixir Nanoweb strings. This bass
has an excellent tone that suits many styles of music.
It also has a great feel, a very fast neck, and excellent
balance. I love its exceptional electronic tone
After a concert in the Recital Hall with the USU Chorale and
I also play a Fender Jazz bass with a "Badass" bridge and
super-bright DR Silver Stars strings for that punchy
"J-bass" sound (the white one on the right, below).
And I have a fat sounding, hard rocking Ibanez SRX505TK five
string, also with Elixir Nanoweb's, for thundering low end
rock tone (the gray flame one on the left, below). I
also own a smooth, woody-sounding Ibanez SR400FL fretless
bass with flatwound D'Addario XL Chromes strings that
combines the woody sound of an upright bass with the best
features of a bass guitar (the black one, third from the
left, below). My bass amp is a TC Electronics RH750
"class D" digital modeling amp that very accurately
simulates everything from the fat and bright '80's SWR sound
to the monster '70's all-tube Ampeg sound. It has 750
Watts, but it weighs only 8.5 lbs! I love this
amp! I play it into an SWR Goliath III 4x10 (the black
cabinet with four speakers pictured below). For
outdoor gigs, I also add an SWR Big Ben 1x18 cabinet.
Four of Irv's bass guitars at a recent gig
My fifth bass is a Breedlove Studio BJ350/SMe4
acoustic-electric guitar bass with D'Addario EXP Phosphor
Bronze strings. This bass looks like an oversized
acoustic guitar (see below) and it has a very different
sound than any of my electric basses. It has the
perfect tone for my unplugged trio, Relic Acoustic
The reason I tell you about my equipment is so you'll
know how much I love playing bass and how serious I am about
this instrument! I love teaching bass. I don't
have very many bass students, but those I do have are having
a great time and are making fantastic progress!
IRV'S PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING BASS:
I have a somewhat different philosophy of teaching bass
than do most bass teachers, that enables my beginning
students to learn much faster than normal. Rather than
starting with the names of the notes and how to read music,
I begin by employing a number system that is used
extensively by studio "session" musicians, based on the
intervals in the scale of the song. The primary
advantage of this method is that the students learn the
relationship of the bass notes within each song, and also
from song to song. Rather than merely memorizing the
notes, students learn the theory of what is happening.
This leads to improved improvisation, transposition, and
playing-by-ear skills. A secondary advantage is that
it is much faster to learn songs with numbers than with note
names. Right from the start, my students can play
songs note for note. They also can transpose any song
they learn into any key signature. Yes, we eventually
get around to learning the names of the notes, but teaching
the intervals first has HUGE advantages in learning bass
because it is so much simpler and faster to learn.
As the student progresses, we get into chord theory.
Chord theory gives the student an understanding of where the
bass note has been, where it's going, and how it relates to
the chord being played by the other instruments.
The other thing I do differently is that, unlike some
teachers, I am not a big fan of practicing scales and
exercises. It's much more fun just to learn songs that
have cool bass lines and scales in them. I teach songs
students want to learn, starting the first week, and as they
learn the songs, they learn the techniques.
Of course I teach proper technique for left hand
fingering, right hand finger picking, and using a pick. I
also teach proper bass setup (string height and intonation)
and other technical aspects of the instrument and
amplification. But mostly, I teach lots of
songs! The more songs a student learns, the better and
faster the student learns how to play the bass. And
the student enjoys the experience more.
PRACTICING (for parents of
PRACTICING (for adult students)
SETTING UP A BASS GUITAR AND AMP
IRV NELSON MUSIC ACADEMY